Productivity Hacks: Staying Focused Surrounded By Screens
Staying Focused Surrounded By Screens
2020 has thrown a lot of curveballs our way, and one major change is likely to last: more of us are working from home than ever. And we’re all finding new ways to connect now that social-distancing, online grocery-shopping, remote meetings, and video-chats are the norm. But when you’re constantly dealing with digital distractions, it can be tricky to stay focused and keep your workday separate from other online activities.
If you’re surrounded by screens all day and are looking for a way to stay on-task, try these pandemic productivity hacks. Whether you’re struggling to get things accomplished without ending up in a Wikipedia-wormhole, working remotely and searching for a little more structure in your online life, or just trying to cut down on your screen time overall, these 4 multi-purpose tips can help.
• Eliminate distractions.
When there’s another screen everywhere you look, it’s easy to wind up doing something other than what you set out to do. But once you’re working, it’s crucial to stay on track. Don’t let yourself get distracted by household chores or turn on the TV and settle into your usual weekend routine. Try to schedule some downtime before you get started to set up your workspace environment comfortably, and establish clear boundaries between work time and free time. That way, you can avoid stressing about work while off the clock; or cleaning the kitchen when you should be focusing on your KPIs.
• Do one thing at a time.
We all like to think we’re good at multitasking, but the truth is, the best way to accomplish a project is to focus on completing one task at a time. Want to be more productive while WFH? Fight the urge to spread yourself across a ton of projects and get one thing done at a time. No, that doesn’t mean you have to accomplish your work in complete silence. But beat procrastination before it starts by picking your podcasts or playlists ahead of time. Overwhelmed and not sure where to start? Make the “one thing you do” a to-do list first. Next? Pick the single most important item on that list.
• Use a productivity app.
Did you know recent studies indicate that Americans check their phone up to 96 times a day? That adds up to a lot of distractions when you’re trying to get things accomplished. One easy and ironic answer to too much tech? Download an application. One phone application that can help you put yours down more is Forest, available on iOS and through Google Play. Forest allows you to set incentives for screen downtime, at durations of your choosing.
Here’s how it works: Users choose a timeframe, then plant a tree. This tree only grows while the phone is either locked or on the Forest screen. In “Deep Focus mode,” if users leave the application for more than two minutes, the tree will die before it’s finished growing. But if you can keep your phone down until the timer’s up, you’ll find a new tree waiting for you. Forest is a great way to grow a dreamy forest while establishing healthy online habits. Computer user? Try the Chrome Extension instead.
• Try a timer.
If you’re not into the idea of planting virtual trees or relying on your phone to stay away from it, try using a timer to take control of your time instead. The Pomodoro method is a proven technique for project productivity, and it’s simple. Start off with a list of tasks you’d like to complete. Set a timer for 25 minutes, or one “Pomodoro,” and work on your task until the timer goes off. Set the timer for 5 minutes, and give yourself a break during that time. When your 5 minutes is up, go back to work for another 25 minutes. This method allows you to balance work time with regular breaks, increasing your mental stamina and productivity.
For those interested in a more high-tech timer solution, you can try a browser extension that includes Pomodoro timers, one that blocks certain sites during scheduled times, or one that helps you monitor your online activity so you can make adjustments accordingly. Just don’t over-stretch yourself and install everything at once. Everyone operates a little differently, and there’s no one “right” way to work remotely in the online era; try one method at a time until you find one that fits your everyday life.